I work as a Youth Development Officer for the City of Mandurah. I studied psychology and I’m also a youth counsellor.
A Youth Development Officer, which is a full time position, is all about consulting with young people in the community about what they need, and feeding that up to people who make decisions. A major part of my role is youth leadership and developing leadership skills amongst young people.
I’m a bit of a larrikin, always have been always will be. Nine and a bit years ago I jumped off the old Mandurah bridge and wasn’t concentrating on where I was in the water and swam underneath my friend, who jumped off the top. I looked up and wore his butt for a hat, which snapped three vertebrae in my neck. I was instantly paralysed. I did the whole drowning saga, got revived, was practically dead and ended up going to hospital for six months. I got out of there and went back to school and then Uni and studied psychology.
Physically I can only move my left arm minimally, I can’t raise my elbow or move any fingers and things like that. My right arm is practically dead. I can move my shoulder and nothing more than that.
I’ve got equipment here to set me up to be able to work. So I can do limited things here. For example if I’m doing up a brochure, or emailing I can do all of that. I do a lot of external stuff, so I need people to help me get places a lot of the time I just need some help with physical tasks, which I can’t do.. Unfortunately that’s where the biggest issues fall for people with my disability, is that there is nothing available for that really.
I probably need about 25 – 30 hours a week with someone helping me out. That’s the maximum to be able to do a weeks work, which is 40 hour a week. At the moment the maximum support you can get for work is 10 hours.
If I was at home and not working then there are funding schemes available at a State level. I guess the situation that I’m in, if I went home and said I’m not working, I can’t work, I’d get 40 hours a week of care. But the minute I say that I need to go to work and use that care at work, that’s null and void I can’t use it.
It makes me angry. I have a solution that is cost effective. If I’m at work I’ve got a carer with me. I’m not on a pension. My carer is paying tax. When you run the numbers you’re making the Government 50 cents on a dollar.
I was told that it was up to my employer to cover these costs. It’s just not realistic, they’re putting another barrier on people being employed.
The biggest frustration I have with the whole thing is that everything is geared to be going bad before you can get help. You have to fight for everything. There is no one that is saying ‘you’re on a good path here, you’ve gone to Uni, you’re going to transition and go to work and then get off the pension and have a pathway to independence’.
No one looks at you and says you’re on a pathway to independence we should support you 100%. They wait for that pathway to be cut off, and be in strife. Once it’s all gone bad, then they say we better support you. It’s just backwards. It should be make things easier before they get hard, not make things easier because they are hard.
When I broke my neck and first became paralysed, I thought everything is over my life is going to end. The whole paralysed thing, or quadriplegia is terrible. No one is telling you, ‘you can do this or that’, you just see the bad side because that is all you hear about. That is the level you have to get to. Why not start promoting the things you can do. Reward what you can do. So people who end up in that position aren’t as shell shocked.
I had to fight my butt off to go to Murdoch Uni. I had to get from Mandurah to Perth. I had to plead with the State Government funding agencies for personal support. I’ve had to fight with people about going to school. They weren’t prepared to support me in a normal class to start with. They were going to put me in a special needs class. I said, “I’m not special needs, just give me some support”. You can get to Tafe or uni, and get support, but it all ends when you try and work. It’s like dangling a carrot in front of a donkey.
You can send me to school, you can send me to uni with carers. And once I’ve learned how to use those carers and be productive, you take them out from under me and I’ve got to go sit at home to get anything. That’s just the way it is and it’s not right.
An NDIS is important because it can stop you having to for fight things. The biggest barrier for people with a disability is having to battle for every thing they need. If you need food you can go to the supermarket and get it. If you need power you can get power. But if you need support with a disability you have to write out lists, you have to do so many things that make it a problem.
We are the people who have difficulty in doing those things – it’s just backwards. It should be something that is provided, so you don’t have to fight to live and do the things that you need to do. It’s a common human decency thing, that it should be there and provided and easy. And that’s what the NDIS is about. It’s making things easy, making it flow rather than being a battle.
Peter, 25, Youth Development Officer City of Mandurah
An NDIS is important because it can stop you having to fight for things. The biggest barrier for people with a disability is having to battle for every thing they need.